The U.S. is still leading in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Recently, there has been a surge in cases, The New York Times reporting as of Monday that over 11 million people in the U.S. have been infected with the novel coronavirus and about 246,000 people have died as a result. These numbers are higher than any other nation.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams suggests these increasing numbers are greatly due to “pandemic fatigue,” which, as defined by the World Health Organization is a “demotivation to follow recommended protective behaviors, emerging gradually over time and affected by a number of emotions, experiences and perceptions.”
This pandemic has manifested itself in many ways. In mid-March and April, most of the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders were just implemented. However, following all these rules for months does get exhausting. For months, we have not been able to properly interact with friends and family, we have not been able to resume a normal work/school life and even small pleasures like going out to restaurants have been changed or taken away. It is admittedly difficult to follow all of these restrictions for so long. However, they are in place because these restrictions are keeping us safe.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has warned against this fatigue. In September, Fauci urged people to “hang in there” in order to combat the pandemic. The same words still hold true in November.
With cases rising and the holiday season approaching, it is more important than ever that we all continue following social distancing protocols, wear masks diligently and practice good hygiene. More and more people are getting sick and we cannot succumb to pandemic exhaustion.
Dr. Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, says the only way to combat against pandemic exhaustion is “pandemic stamina.”
“People yearn for a return to normality. However, the virus doesn’t care. It will continue to spread whenever we let our guard down,” Toner said in an interview with The San Diego Union Tribune. “The only antidote to ‘pandemic fatigue’ is ‘pandemic stamina.’ The pandemic will end, but not for many months. In fact, it will get worse before it gets better. There is no simple solution other than persistence.”
The sheer truth is that the consequences of succumbing to pandemic exhaustion are too dire for us to face. If we relax the social distancing, mask and hygiene protocols, people are at a larger risk for testing positive for COVID-19. If more people test positive, their lives and the lives of their loved ones will be upended with all of the complications of the virus. Some people who test positive for COVID-19 die, especially if they have pre-existing conditions or are at-risk for any other reasons, such as age. Others may suffer from “Post-COVID Syndrome,” which encompasses the lingering aftereffects of COVID-19, including but not limited to a chronic-cough, cardiovascular complications and lung disease. It is unknown how long this syndrome may last or if it is permanent. Those who do recover may have to spend a lot of money on hospital bills and medication, depending on their insurance, and their day-to-day lives will be impacted greatly.
In addition to the individual people who will be affected if these protocols are relaxed, hospitals may get overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases. As a nation, we have witnessed shortages of personal protective equipment, and it is possible, with this surge in cases, this may occur again. Not only should we care for ourselves and our own health, but we must be cognizant of how health care facilities and health care professionals will be impacted with the surge of COVID-19 cases.
It is exhausting, but we cannot succumb to pandemic fatigue. We must continue to do our part by washing our hands, wearing masks and following social distancing protocols. Cases are surging, and it is our duty to do whatever we can to remain safe and healthy.